What do you think about when you see someone in Buddhist robes? Me, what immediately comes to mind is respect (of course, your reaction may be “why are these men wearing dresses?”). The robes say to me that this is someone who is totally committed to living according to Buddha’s teachings. This is a person who is willing to forgo a lot of worldly pleasures in order to dedicate their lives to enlightenment. No matter what their faults may be, I had to give them mad props for their dedication.
As I have written about previously, the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), a group with whom that was a huge part of my life for 10 years, is out dogging the Dalai Lama at series of speaking engagements. The NKT (under the guise of the Western Shugden Society (WSS)) is trying to bring to the media’s attention the plight of practitioners of the practice of Dorje Shugden. If you read the comments section of my previous post, you can see that it is a very controversial and heated topic. Me, I’m sitting squarely on the fence about the larger issue. However, I do not agree whatsoever with the strategy of the protests and the language being used.
On the website of the WSS, they proudly display pictures of the protests with a sea of maroon and yellow robes – monks and nuns holding signs calling the Dalai Lama and liar and pumping their fists in the air chanting. They are not chanting OM MANE PADME HUM or OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASOMGATE BODHI SOHA, chants of compassion and wisdom, but rather “Dalai Lama stop lying”. In this sea of shaven head monks and nuns I see familiar faces. There is Gen-la Dekyong. I used to love her teachings. Her lovely Irish lilt and her humor really enhanced the inspiring teachings she gave. But, now, featured in photograph after photograph shouting, pumping her fist in the air, she appears ugly, angry and haggard. And there is a former teacher of mine, bullhorn in hand. Seeing him didn’t surprise me too much. He always had that warrior type of energy. My sense is that he probably found the protest to be great fun – an outlet for all that testosterone that he has to keep bottled up.
But there was one photograph amidst the dozens that hit me in the gut. There was my last teacher in the NKT. That was the relationship that pushed me to the edge and ultimately out of the organization. As has already been documented, we had a pretty turbulent relationship. Yet, I cared about her a lot. I put up with a lot of her personal weaknesses out of respect and love. She always struck me as frail, both physically and mentally. I knew her dark secrets and cut her some slack because of them.
Yet, there she was, with her fist in the air like the rest of them. It hit me in the gut. And I don’t even know why. Maybe it’s like seeing a picture of an old boyfriend with their new girlfriend. It’s not like you want them back, but it still smarts a bit to see how they have moved on. Who knows what I expected from her. I know to disagree with the protests can get even the most experienced and faithful teacher sent into exile. But, I guess I didn’t expect her to make the extra effort to show up in London for the protest. I just feel so disappointed in her. She would say these are wrathful actions. I say they are ridiculous.
The sight of dozens of ordained monks and nuns used to be so inspiring. Seeing the lot of them at festivals, seeing their gentleness, their faith and their dedication would help me aspire to practice the teachings and acquire those traits for myself. I don’t see that now.
It’s a bit of a loss, really. But, I guess no one ever said stripping away every illusion wouldn’t be painful.